Headlines: January 22nd, 2010

ICT managers should take the lead in encouraging councils to embrace social media, but many block staff from using these new tools for business according to a report from the Society of IT Management.

The report says that many councils currently take a cautious view of social media, with some 90 per cent restricting access in some way. About 67 per cent have a total ban on use, enforced either through policy or by a software block. Others allow use during out of office hours or over the lunch period, suggesting that they see these tools as purely social and not having any business benefit. In contrast, according to Computer Weekly, some 80 per cent of private sector organisations do not block access.

The survey shows that security is at top the list of reasons that the ICT managers surveyed cite for restricting access, with possible exposure to viruses, malware and spyware chief causes for concern. Other main worries are around time wasting by council staff, risk of reputational damage, systems and data compromise and increases in bandwidth requirements.

On the plus side, the report argues that social media may help address looming budget issues faced by public service organisations, by providing economical ways of engaging citizens, delivering services, and by empowering and supporting employees.

The report ‘Social media: why ICT management should lead their organisations to embrace it’ includes a guide to current activity in social media, examples of how councils and individuals are using social media beneficially and types of social media with potential business benefits.

Pete Crosby, COO of Viadeo.com argues that “sometimes it is easier to ban than embrace social media. It’s such a broad term and unfortunately the image is playing games and sharing photos on Facebook. The reality is different. Professional social networks such as ours are driven to helping businesses and organisations share information, either locally or globally. Sites such as ours add value, they don’t take it away.”

The report is available from Socitm.http://www.socitm.gov.uk